During visits with family in Alabama, Ron Gates would take his young daughter to the park. One day, a gentleman approached Ron and explained that he ran a fatherhood program and was always looking to invite men/dads to come to the 24/7 Dad® sessions.
Ron concurred that there was a need for dads to be more engaged with their children. As a pastor, Ron knew first-hand the struggles of generationally fractured families and the impact not only on the men, women, and the communities, but even more certainly, the children. Through his church counseling ministry, he saw a number of men and women who were struggling with each other and with the courts. HHS and the law and a number of other barriers seemed to work against these men in getting their lives back on track.
That day, the stranger left Ron with a 24/7 Dad® Fathering Handbook.
The Traveling 24/7 Dad® Handbook
When Ron got home to North Carolina, he checked out National Fatherhood Initiative®’s (NFI) website, read up on the statistics and research about the programs. Ron even visited a few local programs that offered 24/7 Dad® and sat in on some of the sessions. This prompted Ron to purchase both the 24/7 Dad® AM & PM programs and to attend an NFI facilitator training.
Ron started by offering the program at his church. He then worked to reach out to his community. At first he found it difficult to get connected, but his persistence paid off. Ron eventually met with the local courts’ chief judge and the judicial cabinet members to share about the issues in his community and about the evidence-based 24/7 Dad® program. He also met with the local Sheriff’s department and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for Asheville, NC. He reviewed the program with them, including the handbooks and the pre- and post-assessment, and left a copy of the curriculum with them to review. HHS advised him they were reviewing other programs, but they ended up contracting with Ron!
Ron is now part of a review team with HHS where they determine if families are ready for reunification. Ron works with family courts, foster care agencies, counseling centers, and doctors in the community as well.
Ron delivers 24/7 Dad® in a variety of locations. On Mondays and Wednesdays, he delivers it at his church for men from the congregation, the community, and the dad referrals from judges, public defenders, the District Attorney’s office, and the Department of Social Services. Ron also works with dads on Mondays and Wednesdays in the local Detention Center and has provided 24/7 Dad® at a community residential recovery program.
Ron’s approach is unique in that he offers both 24/7 Dad® AM & PM for 6 weeks. If dads meet on Mondays and Wednesdays and, for example, on Monday they will cover session 1 & 2 of the A.M. program, and on Wednesday they will cover session 1 & 2 of the P.M. program. This works well as Ron feels 24/7 Dad® A.M. covers more emotional aspects of fathering while 24/7 Dad® P.M. deals more with rationale and decision making.
Another important piece is that Ron requires dads to fill out their handbooks. Ron knows that the dads completing the parts in the handbook, including what they learned at the end of each session, is key not only to their learning—but as a reinforcement to help them change negative behaviors and replace them with positive ones.
Ron also leads NFI’s Understanding Dad™ program for moms on Tuesdays in the Detention Center. He finds that it helps moms deal with anger toward the dads. They realize that if a child is seeing an unstable relationship, it can become part of their DNA.
Ron’s ultimate goal is to help moms and dads all set new patterns with regard to marriage and healthy home environments.
What He’s Learned:
- It is critical to know about and work with your community.
- 12-week programs had low interest.
- 6-week program had higher interest.
- Handbooks are vital! They’re a key to successful transformation.
- Provide a safe, stable environment to meet.
- It’s important to work with fathers and celebrate graduations with family and friends.
In Ron’s words about the results, “Phenomenal change!”
In one court case, a single dad seeking custody of his child actually brought his 24/7 Dad® handbook and showed the judge what he learned in the program and how he is changing his habits because of what he learned. The dad was allowed custody of his child.
Another dad shared with the judge what he learned and the judge said, “He needs more time with his child so he can practice what he has learned.” This dad got more visitation and ultimately received custody of his daughter!
He’s also seen reunification of families, and even some broken marriages where the dads went back to their wives.